Good dental hygiene habits should begin before your child’s first tooth comes in. Childhood tooth decay can have devastating consequences when left untreated. Dental problems can negatively impact a child’s overall quality of life, inhibit their cognitive and social development and compromise their growth, function and self esteem.
Is my child at risk for cavities?
Your child might be at risk if he or she has any of the following risk factors:
• He or she eats a lot of sugary foods
• Drinks a lot of sweet liquids
• They were born prematurely or had a low birth weight
• Has ongoing special health care needs
• Has white spots or brown areas on any teeth
• Does not go to the dentist very often
How can I help stop cavities?
Make good oral care a family affair. Family members with lots of cavities can pass the cavity-causing bacteria to babies and children. Teeth should be brushed at least twice a day and adults should floss once a day. Have your doctor or dentist show you the right way to brush your child’s teeth.
Brushing and flossing is a habit you’ll want to help your child develop early. Use a small, soft toothbrush to brush teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Help your child with teeth cleaning until at least 6 years of age. Even if their intentions are good, they may not have the dexterity to clean their teeth well. For long-term dental health, your child needs to care for their gums as well. Teach them to floss regularly, preferably once a day, in order to help prevent gum (or periodontal) disease in adulthood.
Everyone should see the dentist twice a year. Ensure your child gets regular dental checkups, preferably twice a year for cleaning, as well as for X-rays as recommended by your dentist. Regular preventive appointments will significantly decrease your child’s chances of ever having to undergo major dental treatment. Whenever your child complains of a toothache, contact your dentist. This pain could be a sign of a decayed tooth. Until the dentist can see your child, treat the pain with acetaminophen by mouth.
Talk to your child’s dentist about sealants. Sealants are appropriate for all back teeth that have grooves in them. They are extremely successful in preventing cavities, which makes them cost-effective. With a combination of sealants and fluoride treatment, the incidence of cavities can be reduced by 90 percent.
Does diet affect my child’s teeth?
Yes. Staying away from sweets, sticky foods and between-meal snacks is good advice. To avoid cavities, have meals and snack at regular times and limit sweet snacks and drinks between meals. Teeth-friendly snacks include fresh fruits and vegetables, and cheese and crackers.